This is an in-depth review of the Fujifilm X-T1, a weather-proof mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera from Fuji that was announced on January 28, 2014. Previously known for its popular X-Pro, X-E and X-M lines, the new “T” line is specifically made to be “tough”. With its all magnesium-alloy body, sealed buttons and compartments, the X-T1 is Fuji’s first attempt at a fully weather-sealed mirrorless camera. Although Fuji’s recent cameras have been quite popular, it had nothing to offer against the OM-D E-M1 and OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras from Olympus. With the latter two offering weather sealing, in-body image stabilization (IBIS) and a whole slew of lenses to choose from, Fuji wanted the X-T1 to offer similar features at a competitive price. With a larger APS-C sensor and a huge, high-resolution electronic viewfinder (EVF), the X-T1 was also meant to appeal a bigger audience from professionals and enthusiasts that want a lighter and more compact setup than their DSLRs.
With the same 16 MP X-Trans CMOS II sensor, same EXR Processor II, hybrid autofocus system and WiFi as the Fuji X-E2, the X-T1 at first might not look that much different in comparison. However, once you dig deeper into what the X-T1 has to offer with its truly amazing and breathtaking EVF, fast continuous autofocus, WiFi connectivity with remote control, customization options, built-in intervalometer, tilting LCD screen and a sleek retro design, you will realize that the X-T1 is in fact a big step up. In this review, I will talk about my four month experience with the X-T1 and compare it to the E-M1, along with other popular Nikon DSLRs.
1) Fujifilm X-T1 Specifications
Main Features and Specifications:
- Sensor: 16.3 MP (1.5x crop factor), 4.8µ pixel size
- Sensor Size: 23.6 x 15.6mm
- Resolution: 4896 x 3264
- Native ISO Sensitivity: 200-6,400
- Boost Low ISO Sensitivity: 100 (JPEG-only)
- Boost High ISO Sensitivity: 12,800-51,200 (JPEG-only)
- Sensor Cleaning System: Yes
- Lens mount: FUJIFILM X mount
- Weather Sealing/Protection: Yes
- Body Build: Full Magnesium Alloy
- Shutter: Up to 1/4000 and 30 sec exposure
- Shutter Control: Focal Plane Shutter
- Storage: 1x SD slot (SD/SDHC/SDXC compatible)
- Viewfinder Type: 2,360,000-dot OLED color viewfinder
- Speed: 8 FPS
- Exposure Meter: TTL 256-zones metering
- Built-in Flash: No, External EF-X8 Flash Included
- Autofocus: Yes
- Manual Focus: Yes
- LCD Screen: 3.0 inch, 1,040,000 dots, Tilting TFT color LCD
- Movie Modes: Up to full 1080p HD @ 60p, 30p
- Movie Recording Limit: 14 minutes in 1080p, 27 minutes in 720p
- Movie Output: MOV (H.264)
- GPS: No
- WiFi: Yes
- Battery Type: NP-W126
- Battery Life: 350 shots
- USB Standard: 2.0
- Weight: 440g (excluding battery and accessories)
- Price: $1,299 MSRP body only at launch
A detailed list of camera specifications is available at Fujifilm.com.
2) Camera Construction, Handling and Controls
The build quality of the X-T1 is the best of the breed, with a full magnesium-alloy cover, front to back. The only other camera in Fuji’s current line-up that features a similar build is the X-Pro1, which is not weather sealed. You get a good sense of the toughness of the camera when you hold it in hands – the camera feels similar to a high-end DSLR, with its all-metal construction, aluminum knobs and a nicely protruded, comfortable to hold grip. Fuji once again redesigned the layout of the camera when compared to the X-Pro1 and the X-E2, adding more manual exposure controls. If the Fuji X-Pro1 and X-E1/X-E2 only featured two dials (one for shutter speed and one for exposure compensation), the X-T1 now adds another dial to the left of the viewfinder for ISO control. To some, this might look like a step back in ergonomics, but in reality, the dial is actually very useful, as you no longer need to dig in camera menus to change the ISO setting. The “A” (Auto) mode is still there and if you do not want to fiddle with changing the ISO, you simply keep it in this mode.
Fuji is all about retro manual dials and controls, which is why people enjoy shooting with these cameras so much. With the ISO, Shutter Speed and Exposure Compensation dials on the top of the camera, along with Aperture control ring on lenses, the Fuji X-T1 now allows complete, manual control of the exposure. And for those minute changes and other controls, the X-T1 also comes with two separate rotary dials – one in front and one on the back of the camera, similar to what we see on most Nikon DSLRs. The rotary dial on the back allows for changing the shutter speed in 1/3 increments, while the one on the front allows changing the lens aperture when using XC lenses that have no aperture rings. Manual control does not mean that you cannot use the camera in Auto modes either – any of the Exposure Triangle settings can be set to Auto (indicated as a red “A” on dials), allowing Auto ISO, Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes – all without having a PASM dial. In my opinion, this is what the Nikon Df ergonomics should have been like!
The front of the camera has also seen some changes. Here is a comparison of the X-T1 (left) to the X-E2 (right):
There is now a dedicated function button right by the grip and a flash sync socket that is covered by a round plastic piece. I am not a fan of the plastic piece though, as it could get easily lost after getting detached. I wish Fuji designed it similarly to Nikon DSLRs, so that it stays attached to the camera body when removed. If you are interested in finding out more about the flash, read the Flash section of this review.
With a total of six programmable function buttons, the X-T1 is Fuji’s most customizable camera. The function buttons can be programmed individually through the camera menu either by going into the setup menu or holding down the DISP/BACK button on the back of the camera. Once there, you can go through each function button and set everything from Depth of Field Preview to Wireless Communication:
Although the Fuji X-T1 offers more customization options than most DSLRs on the market today, only two function buttons were truly programmable for my personal use. The reason is, Fuji’s default navigation buttons on the back of the camera represent four of those function buttons. One of my biggest complaints with other Fuji cameras has been lack of focus point selection when pressing the navigation buttons. The good news, is that now you can sort of fix that by simply assigning the “Focus Area” function to all four of those buttons (Fn3, Fn4, Fn5 and Fn6). Although it would take two button presses to move a focus point, this method is much better than pressing the down arrow (default behavior), then picking a focus point. I wish Fuji changed this to be the default behavior, because all other cameras I have used in the past behave this way.
The back of the camera has also been drastically changed compared to the X-Pro1 or the X-E1/X-E2. Due to the new tilting LCD on the back, which is very useful for shooting at difficult angles, the left buttons have been moved to different areas of the camera, as shown in the picture below (Left: Fuji X-T1, Right: Fuji X-E2)
As you can see, the Playback and Trash buttons have been moved to the left of the EVF, similar to what Nikon does on its DSLRs like Nikon D800 (except the two buttons are flipped). The AE-L and AF-L buttons have been moved to the top right, with the rear dial in-between. The Quick (“Q”) menu button has been moved right above the arrow buttons. Thankfully, the “Macro” and “AF” texts have been removed from the arrows, because those buttons are now programmable, as discussed above. The “Disp Back” button has been reduced to a small button and stays where it were before. There is now a dedicated “Focus Assist” button right above the “Q” button, which is a very useful addition. When shooting in autofocus or manual focus modes, you can press this button and the image in the viewfinder or the camera LCD will instantly zoom in, allowing you to see how well the subject is focused. In manual focus mode, you can change the magnification level by simply rotating the rear dial and the camera can digitally zoom in all the way to 100% for precise focusing (more on this under “Manual Focus” below). Sadly, you cannot change zoom levels in Autofocus mode.
Another huge complaint on the X-E1/X-E2 and the X-Pro1 was the memory card slot. It looks like my prayers were answered, because Fuji finally moved the memory card slot to the side of the camera. No more dismounting of the camera and removing the tripod plate when I need to change memory cards, which is great! Although the plastic door seems to be a bit flimsy compared to the overall construction of the camera initially, it lasted four months without any issues for me.
How good is weather sealing, you might ask? Well, I have shot with the X-T1 in below zero temperatures while it was snowing, used it in rainy conditions in London and took it to the humid, salty beaches of the Bahamas and the camera performed admirably, without any hiccups. If you travel a lot or live in a humid or dusty environments, the Fuji X-T1 will be a great choice. Just make sure to grab one of those new Weather-Resistant (“WR”) lenses if you want to have a fully sealed setup and you will be good to go.
If you have large hands or want vertical shooting options that extend the battery life, you might want to check out the VG-XT1 Vertical Battery Grip, which is specifically designed for the X-T1. Although it adds to the bulk and weight of the camera, it is a nice add-on that will improve the ergonomics and the battery life of the camera. Those that just want to be able to mount the X-T1 on an Arca-Swiss Quick Release tripod / monopod might want to check out the MHG-XT Metal Hand Grip, which also exists in a larger version. Fuji did a really nice job with designing these accessories.
Operating the camera and navigating the menu system is pretty easy and straightforwarded. Unfortunately, Fuji still has not added RAW shooting capability at boosted ISO levels (100, 12,800 and 25,600), so I am still going to complain about that. I don’t understand why this is such a problem to implement. When shooting with a fast lens like the Fuji 56mm f/1.2, or using flash in bright conditions, I do want to be able to go to ISO 100 and not think that I will only end up with JPEG image. Especially with the 1/4000 shutter speed limitation. Carrying an ND filter would do the job, but that’s another nuisance I have to worry about. If Fuji allowed RAW shooting at ISO 100 and moved up the maximum shutter speed to 1/8000, the X-T1 would have been even better for those sunny days!
Hand-holding the camera is very comfortable for my hands and the new protruded grip certainly adds to that experience. I found the X-T1 to be much more comfortable to hold than the X-Pro1, X-E1/X-E2 and X-M1 cameras. With an XF lens like the Fuji 35mm f/1.4, the camera balances very well when hung from the neck. Speaking of that, I never liked the thin strap that comes with the Fuji cameras – I would replace the strap with something better and thicker. The Fuji straps are very uncomfortable and they do irritate bare skin quite a bit. Despite the fact that one side of the strap is a little smoother than the other, it is the thin size of the strap and lack of any sort of padding that cause these issues. Personally, I am a huge fan of neoprene straps from OP/TECH. The classic version of the strap would probably be ideal, although if you feel that it is too thick or too big for the X-T1, they have all kinds of smaller sizes too. Just make sure to pick up a strap that is thin enough to go through the “ears” on the sides of the camera.
3) Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)
The electronic viewfinder from the X-T1 deserves a section of its own, because of how amazing it is. Yes, I did use the word “breathtaking” in the second paragraph of this review when I described it, because it is that good and there is nothing like it on the market today. This viewfinder is the sole reason why I would move up to the X-T1 if I were a Fuji X shooter. Although it has the same high-resolution 2.36 million dot OLED viewfinder, the size of the viewfinder is huge! If you have shot with a full-frame DSLR, the viewfinder on the X-T1 is actually larger in comparison, with its 0.77x magnification. Just for comparison sake, even the top of the line Nikon D4s features a 0.70x magnification optical viewfinder.
Having such a large viewfinder has many advantages. First, the image appears much larger, making it easy to see what you are doing. Not many of us are blessed with perfect vision, so the combination of a large EVF and a diopter adjustment dial make the X-T1 a friendly camera for those of us that have problems with vision. Second, a larger EVF makes it easy to use the camera in manual focus mode, where precise focusing is important. In this regard, the X-T1 is a breeze to use, because it allows you to split the screen in two, as described in the “Manual Focus” section of this review, showing a magnified section of the image. Third, other manual focus features such as Focus Peaking and Digital Split Image can be much more useful when you are looking at a large image. Take a look at how useful the Digital Split Image feature is on the X-T1 in Dual mode:
If the EVF was small, these particular features would not have been very useful, as you would be looking at two tiny images. Fourth, since the EVF technology allows projecting all kinds of information as layers on top of the image, this information does not have to be squeezed into tiny space to be visible. I end up turning off information layers on some cameras, because they occupy too much space. The X-T1 does not have this problem and the overlaying information is often very useful. Just take a look at how much information can be presented on the X-T1:
Here is the full overlay information for the above images (click to see a larger version):
- Flash mode
- Film Simulation
- Focus frame
- Depth-of-field indicator
- Shooting Mode
- Image quality and size
- Virtual horizon (electronic level indicator)
- Battery level
- Exposure Compensation / exposure indicator
- White balance
- Dynamic range
- Shutter Speed
- Number of available frames
- Framing guideline
- Distance indicator
Now that’s a lot of information! And the good news is, you can actually customize what you want to see in the viewfinder. So if you just want to see the image without any distractions, you can completely turn it all off.
Lastly, my favorite part about the larger EVF is the playback mode. When shooting in midday sun, I no longer have to rely on the viewfinder to see what I photographed. Playing back images in the bright EVF is extremely useful, as I do not have to worry about third party accessories to just be able to see captured images. And if I need to zoom in to a particular portion of the scene, I can do that too!
If you want to see what difference a viewfinder can make, try shooting with an APS-C DSLR and then compare that experience with a full-frame DSLR – it is very much different! And if you own a full-frame DSLR, you will not have to compromise that experience, as the EVF on the X-T1 is even bigger.
Another cool feature of the X-T1 is the automatic rotation of the overlaid information when switching to vertical / portrait mode. You no longer need to look at the left and right of the image to see exposure details and other useful information:
In summary, the electronic viewfinder on the X-T1 is simply stunning, making the process of using the camera even more joyful than on any other Fujifilm camera.
4) Battery Life
As for battery life, the 350 shot specification is obviously based on CIPA standard, so your mileage might vary depending on your use of the camera. To preserve battery life and increase the number of shots over 350, I would recommend to keep the LCD screen off as much as possible (that’s the #1 source of battery drain). Simply switch the camera to EVF-only mode + Eye Sensor and keep the “High Performance” mode in the camera setup menu on. Turn off the camera when not in use and you should be able to squeeze 400+ shots out of the X-T1. When testing the Fuji X-T1 alongside the Sony A6000, I found the X-T1 to drain the battery slower in comparison. By the time I got to 50%, the Sony A6000 would already be at around 10-25%. Although I do not trust battery level indicators, just shooting with the two side by side on full battery power proved that the X-T1 did a better job at preserving battery life. Still, if you are considering the X-T1 for serious work, I would get at least one more battery. If you do not want to switch between batteries, the above-mentioned VG-XT1 battery grip would definitely be helpful.
5) LCD Screen
Although the LCD screen has not changed in specifications (it is the same 3″ LCD monitor with 1.2 million dots as on the X-E2 and X-Pro1), the ability to tilt the LCD is great. The LCD screen can tilt upward by 90 degrees, downward by 45 degrees. It is not as versatile as the vari-angle LCD screen on the Nikon D5100/D5200/D5300, but it is still great for those situations when you need to shoot from above or below. Here is an image I captured without getting myself down and dirty after rain by simply tilting the screen upwards:
6) WiFi and Remote Control
On of the highlights of the Fuji X-T1 is its WiFi option with remote control capability. While the X-E2 also features WiFi, it has no remote control options, making the X-T1 the first Fuji camera to ship with this functionality. While I personally rarely use this feature, it could come really handy for those that want to capture images remotely or want to transfer photos to their phones while travelling. Once you install the Fujifilm Camera Remote app (here is the Apple version and here is the Android version) you can fire it up, connect to the X-T1 and take control of all exposure variables.
Sadly, I found the app to be rather buggy when using it on my iPhone. First of all, the app would completely reinitialize itself after leaving it, so there is no multi-tasking support. This was rather annoying, because I could not even check my email while using the app. Second, some basic gesture support is not there either, so you cannot swipe between photos or pinch to zoom. Third, the app always stays in portrait mode and you cannot switch it to landscape mode, making it rather difficult to see what’s going on. I hope Fuji continues working with the app and makes it more usable for those of us that really need it. It would be nice if Fuji updated the firmware on the X-E2 to allow remote control capabilities as well…
Similar to the X-Pro1 and unlike the X-M1, X-E1 and X-E2 cameras, the Fuji X-T1 does not come with a built-in flash. It is expected, as the flash socket is actually a point of potential entry for dust and moisture. Personally, I almost never use built-in flashes in cameras, as they are too weak and direct. If you want to use flash, however, don’t be disappointed, as Fuji bundles the small EF-X8 external flash unit. Another good news, is that the external flash unit can be used as a Commander to control other strobes. Basically, the unit turns off pre-flash in commander mode, so you can use something like the Nikon SB-800 in SU-4 mode as a slave. To be honest, I did not spend much time with the flash, as I prefer to use a set of PocketWizard Plus III units to trigger off-camera flash.
Speaking of off-camera flash, the Fuji X-T1 works very well with external triggers. Some of our readers asked me if the X-T1 works with the Profoto B1 head in TTL mode. Unfortunately, it does not – the Nikon TTL-N version is scheduled to be released sometime in 2015 and Fuji is not even planned as far as I know. The main problem with TTL is reverse engineering – neither Nikon nor Canon make their TTL “open” for third party systems (similar to lens autofocus), so engineers have to figure out how the system interacts with devices and decode it from there. But you can still use pretty much any external flash that has manual mode, whether it is a Nikon / Canon branded or a third party flash. Just set the flash in M mode and adjust the power manually and you will be in good shape! I used the X-T1 with my Nikon SB-800 and SB-900 units successfully and it worked like a charm with a set of PocketWizard Plus III units when I used the Profoto B1 head. A number of images in this review were shot with flash, including the images below (captured with my friend and our writer Charles Hildreth):
If you are an avid strobist or studio photographer though, you might not like the fact that the Fuji X-T1 is limited to 1/180 flash sync speed. To make things easier, Fuji provides a dedicated “180x” setting on the shutter speed dial. The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is limited to 1/320 sync speed and when I did my research it turned out to handle 1/400 shutter speed easily! Sadly, the Fuji X-T1 cannot go beyond 1/180. Take a look at the below photo that I shot at 1/250:
As you can see, there is a dark line on the bottom of the frame at 1/250. If you drop the shutter speed to 1/200, the frame gets only a little darker on the bottom though, making it more usable than 1/250.
Another much requested feature that was absent on previous Fuji cameras was a built-in intervalometer for shooting timelapses. Once again, Fuji listened to its customers and the X-T1 now comes with one! At this point the intervalometer is rather limited though, with no options for start time, number of bursts per interval, can only handle a total of 999 shots and can only be triggered by the “MENU / OK” button. You can set a delay before starting in 1 minute increments, but that’s not particularly useful either. For advanced timelapse sequences, you are still currently better off with a third party tool. I hope that the intervalometer feature we see on the X-T1 is the first revision and Fuji continues to update it and make it more useful. Otherwise, it will be a wasted attempt, given the current limitations.
9) Image Sensor
Fuji has been reusing its sensor technology on several cameras now and the X-T1 is no exception – it features the same 16.3 MP X-Trans CMOS II sensor as on the X-E2. I don’t blame Fuji for reusing the sensor, since it yields beautiful images with a relatively low amount of noise, especially when shooting in JPEG format (unlike other brands, Fuji knows how to properly perform in-camera processing). The sensor incorporates phase detection pixels right on its surface, allowing for much faster autofocus (see the Autofocus Performance and Accuracy section below for more information).
What’s different between the Fuji X-Trans sensor and a traditional bayer-pattern design, you might ask? While traditional sensors with a repeating bayer-pattern color filter array exhibit moire problems and hence need an anti-aliasing filter to reduce moire by essentially blurring the image, the X-Trans CMOS II sensor has a new color filter array that has a more random pattern, which does not cause moire to occur in the first place. Hence, an anti-aliasing filter is not necessary, which in turn translates to sharper, more detailed images. Indeed, having shot with every Fuji X camera with this sensor, I have yet to see moire in my images!
Here is an illustration of a traditional bayer pattern color filter array compared to the new Fuji color filter array:
Top image: 1) Lens, 2) Sensor, 3) Optical low-pass filter.
Bottom image: 1) Lens, 2) Sensor, 3) Natural random arrangement of the fine grains of silver halide in film.
As you can see, the difference between the two is quite big.
Fuji says that their sensor not only delivers sharper images due to the lack of an anti-aliasing filter, but also has better color reproduction. Does the X-Trans CMOS II sensor work as advertised? It certainly does, in my opinion. The amount of detail from the camera when using Fujinon and Zeiss Touit lenses is very impressive, especially when looking at images at 100% view. As a long time digital Nikon shooter, I am very impressed by the color rendition of Fuji cameras, including the X-T1. Not only does the camera produce beautiful colors, but Fuji clearly knows how to process skin tones – something Nikon and many other brands are historically not very good at.
The X-Trans CMOS II sensor with a new color filter and built-in phase detection is a great innovation. Sadly, most digital camera manufacturers today, including Nikon and Canon, still rely on the bayer pattern that was invented back in 1976 in Kodak labs. With all the new ultra high resolution sensors coming out, I believe manufacturers need to start adopting such innovations to get rid of the outdated anti-aliasing/blur filter. Nikon has started removing the AA filter from its cameras to get as much resolution as possible from lenses, but at the expense of introducing moire.
The only gripe with the X-Trans sensor, which is still there today, is rendering issues of RAW files when using Camera RAW and Lightroom. Adobe did once point out that they improved support for Fuji cameras, but the artifacts still appear in images when strong sharpening is applied. I am not sure why Adobe has still not worked this out with Fuji. If you are willing to use the included SilkyPix software or go through the third party route using tools such as Photo Ninja to render RAW images, then you can avoid seeing these artifacts. However, that’s not a practical option for many of us, including myself, who end up using Adobe software despite these issues. As long as you don’t apply too much sharpening in RAW files, those artifacts will not be visible in images. The problem with Adobe’s RAW rendering, is that once sharpening is applied, excessive outlining on fine patterns starts to occur in images. Take a look at the below comparison of RAW rendering by Adobe ACR and Photo Ninja (click to see a larger version):
As you can see, the rendering by Adobe Camera RAW looks very different in comparison, with visible artifacts in the fine bush branches. Photo Ninja does a much better job here and even excessive sharpening does not create the same outlining artifacts in images.
I really hope that Adobe and Fuji will soon iron out these issues, since I am not very keen on introducing another RAW rendering software package to my workflow process.
Since the X-T1 is all about the best image quality Fuji can deliver in a compact mirrorless camera, you will be happy to know that the camera can capture RAW images in 14-bit (which basically translates to wider color gamut), just like the X-E2. Thanks to the faster processor, the X-T1 and the X-E2 are able to process and record much larger RAW files. Fuji engineers knew that larger files would result in slower write speeds and potentially more frustrated experience, so they increased the write speed throughput. As long as you have one of those fast SD cards, you should not have to wait much for the camera to empty its buffer when shooting in continuous mode.
10) Autofocus Performance and Accuracy
I remember the first time I handled the X-Pro1 and how much I hated its buggy autofocus system. It has been over two years now and Fuji has come a long way to make its autofocus system fast and accurate. Despite all the claims about autofocus performance, something all current mirrorless cameras struggle with is continuous autofocus. While most AF systems do a pretty good job with stationary subjects, autofocus systems simply fall apart as soon as the subject moves. That’s where DSLRs still dominate today and will probably continue to do so for the next few years until mirrorless catches up. The challenge with continuous autofocus is the speed of rendering digital information. As described in this article, DSLR cameras project an optical image from the lens on dedicated phase detection sensors located under the mirror. This system has been tweaked and optimized for many years now, and with each iteration of newer processor technologies, they are only getting faster. In contrast, mirrorless cameras have to continuously process images digitally using the contrast detection method and only the more recent cameras like the Fuji X-T1 have been featuring hybrid autofocus systems that combine phase and contrast detection to improve autofocus performance. Still, as we have seen from these hybrid systems, continuous AF performance of mirrorless cameras using phase detection does not match the performance of DSLR cameras.
With the release of the X-T1, Fuji wanted to drastically change the way continuous autofocus works. If continuous AF was rather useless on the previous generation Fuji X cameras, the X-T1 is a whole different beast now. With its 8 fps continuous shooting speed, the camera can track movements and adjust autofocus accordingly. Although the speed is not sustained at 8 fps all the time when shooting fast action at varying distances, it is still pretty impressive what the camera can yield.
I experimented with the continuous autofocus performance of the X-T1 when photographing my kids and here are the results:
- First sequence of my son walking towards me: 3 out of 11 images out of focus (27% miss rate)
- Second sequence of my son walking towards me: 2 out of 9 images out of focus (22% miss rate)
- Third sequence of my son running towards me: 5 out of 9 images out of focus (55% miss rate)
- Fourth sequence of my two sons running towards me: 2 out of 9 images out of focus (22% miss rate)
- Fifth sequence of my daughter slowly walking towards me: 3 out of 30 images out of focus (10% miss rate)
- Sixth sequence of a flying plane at infinity: 0 out of 10 images out of focus (0% miss rate)
As you can see, autofocus accuracy depends on the speed of subject movement and change in focus distance. One key factor that I left out from the above, is how much out of focus subjects are when shot in continuous mode. Most images that I categorized as “out of focus” were barely out of focus, with a slight focus error. If I were to only count images that were completely out of focus, the above table would have had a lot less misses. The biggest issue with the continuous autofocus is the constant “probing” of autofocus in AF-C mode. It seems like no matter what I tried, the very first image was the problematic one, with the subject out of focus. Once the camera saw the movement of the subject after the first shot, it did a much better job with the rest of the frames. In some cases, the camera would get confused and not track movement at all, but that was rather rare – it generally did a pretty good job. Another important factor is the subject movement – it seems like the camera does much better when the subject moves side to side, where focus adjustments are not needed. AF accuracy goes down when the subject requires continuous and fast focus adjustments, when a subject is running towards or away from the camera.
As for autofocus accuracy in AF-S / Single mode, the camera performed admirably. I did not notice any autofocus issues in Single mode with the X-T1 similar to what I had reported on the X-E2, so that’s definitely good news. In fact, I found the X-T1 to be the best performing camera from Fuji in terms of autofocus accuracy. When shooting with the Fuji XF 56mm f/1.2 lens, the camera nailed focus shot to shot wide open at f/1.2 – something neither Canon nor Nikon can do with the most advanced DSLRs when using f/1.2 and f/1.4 lenses. If you look at the EXIF data from the provided image samples in this review, most images were taken wide open at f/1.2 when I used the 56mm f/1.2 lens.
11) Manual Focus
The beauty of the Fuji X-T1 is how accurately you can focus, whether shooting in autofocus or manual focus modes. If you want to manually focus Fuji XF or XC lenses, or want to use third party lenses via adapters, the Fuji X-T1 gives you plenty of tools to nail every single shot – something you could never do with a modern DSLR! The large, high-resolution electronic viewfinder that I praised earlier is superb for manual focusing, because you can use such features as Focus Peaking, Digital Split Image and Dual Mode with a zoomed image to the right of the frame. Simply switch to Manual focusing using the switch on the front of the camera, then press the “Focus Assist” button and you are in business! The camera will zoom in where the focus point was and let you tweak focus before you take a picture. You can zoom in and out to your comfort level using the rear rotary dial. If you want to switch between different focus modes, hold the Focus Assist button and the camera will toggle between Standard Zoom, Focus Peaking and Digital Split Image.
The magic of the Focus Assist button does not stop there. If you are used to Nikon’s one click zoom feature on advanced DSLRs, you will love this one! After you take a picture, if you want to quickly see if the image is in focus without having to zoom in manually, just press this button and it will show the image at the zoom level you set. To change the zoom level, rotate the rear dial.
If you are a fan of the focus and recompose technique, then you will love the X-T1. All you have to do is set the front focus switch to manual (“M”) mode and you can press the AF-L button on the back of the camera to acquire focus. What’s even cooler, is that you can actually configure the manual focus mode for fine tuning the focus in the electronic viewfinder, something you cannot do with an optical viewfinder on DSLRs. You can set up the EVF in a “Dual Mode”, which splits the viewfinder into two separate images. The larger one shows the whole frame, while the smaller one shows a zoomed area where the focus point is. Now that’s an insanely useful feature that sets these mirrorless cameras apart from a DSLR – using manual focus is now extremely handy, as you no longer have to think about focus errors. And if you have bad vision, you can zoom into the focused area by up to 100% view! To enable the Dual mode, press the “Disp / Back” button. Here is Dual mode in action:
Manual focus adjustment speed is still the same as on the X-E1 / X-E2, which is pretty slow to rotate from one end to another. That’s because Fuji does not rely on a mechanical focus ring like on traditional lenses. When you rotate the focus ring, focus is adjusted electronically via the fly-by-wire system. A focus scale is provided inside the viewfinder or on the rear LCD to indicate where you are at. It would be nice if Fuji added an option to speed up focus rotation by 2x, 3x, etc.
12) Fujinon Lenses
As of June 2014, the Fuji lens line has expanded from the three initially launched lenses to thirteen. Fuji has done an amazing job with lenses in my opinion, first introducing prime lenses and then following up with some zooms later. This basically showed that Fuji’s target market was professionals and enthusiasts that were looking for a serious mirrorless system. I had a pleasure of shooting with all three initially launched lenses and I have recently shot with every single Fuji lens, except for the newly announced XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS WR (weather resistant) lens. So far, my experience has been very positive on the entire line of Fuji and Zeiss lenses. Specifically, I found the 23mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4 and 56mm f/1.2 primes to be my favorites. The 56mm f/1.2 deserves a praise on its own, being an amazing portrait lens with exceptionally good optics and beautiful bokeh.
13) Lens Modulation Optimizer
The Lens Modulation Optimizer (LMO) feature from the X-E2 has been also added to the X-T1. In short, LMO applies software tweaks to images to reduce the effect of diffraction and other optical aberrations, resulting in sharper images. Although this feature is great for JPEG shooters, it is completely useless if you shoot in RAW format. And since I only shoot in RAW, the Lens Modulation Optimizer setting does not matter, similar to Dynamic Range, Noise Reduction and other image-enhancing features found on the camera. If you want to read more about this feature, check out this page at Fujifilm-x.com.
14) Metering and Exposure
I found no issues with metering on the X-T1. The camera did very well in most situations, including high-contrast scenes. In rare situations where the camera could not meter properly, the exposure compensation dial was quite handy, allowing up to three full stops of negative or positive compensation. While some cameras require a permanent exposure compensation “fix”, the Fuji X-T1 does perfectly well without any compensation – only use it when necessary. Changing camera metering mode is really easy – just rotate the switch on the bottom of the Shutter Speed dial and you can toggle between 256-zone TTL Multi, Average and Spot modes.
15) Shooting Speed
With an 8 fps continuous burst rate, the X-T1 is the fastest Fuji camera in the line-up. In comparison, the X-Pro1 could go up to 6 fps and the X-E2 could go up to 7 fps. However, the big difference here is not the burst speed – it is the usability of it. As I have already explained earlier, the X-T1 is the first Fuji camera that has a fairly good continuous autofocus system for tracking moving subjects. None of the earlier Fuji models were capable of doing that, so their fps speeds were mostly irrelevant and too limiting.
16) Video / Movie Recording
Just like on the X-E2, the X-T1 features better video recording capabilities up to full HD at 60 fps, which is pretty impressive. The faster processor certainly helps with pushing the speed and keeping up with the 60 fps throughput. Unlike DSLRs that have to have their mirrors flipped up, which limits viewing of video recording only on the camera LCD, the Fuji X-T1 can display recorded video both on its rear LCD and inside the electronic viewfinder. You can choose a desired aperture, adjust exposure compensation and a few other camera settings, but you cannot adjust the shutter speed and ISO – those are chosen automatically by the camera based on the camera meter reading. I am not sure why Fuji keeps its video recording features so limited – perhaps there is no demand for this feature from its user base. Although Fuji added a dedicated video recording button to the top plate, it does not really do much to improve the above-mentioned limitations and video quality. And with 4K now hitting the market, Fuji is clearly staying behind in this segment. Simply put, if you are looking for a good video recording tool, you should look at other cameras out there. I hope Fuji improves its video recording features, specifically allowing for full manual control of the exposure. It would also be nice to see 4K support in the X-Pro2 and X-T2, since it will soon become the new standard in high-definition video.
17) ISO Performance at low ISOs (ISO 200-800)
Some technical information:
- White Balance: Auto
- EXIF information is preserved in the images
- Focusing was performed manually in 100% zoom mode
- Long exposure NR: Off
- High ISO NR: Off
- Image Format: RAW
- Lightroom export: sRGB JPEG Quality 80
Let’s take a look at how the Fuji X-T1 performs at low ISOs. Here are some crops at ISO 200, 400, 800 and 1600:
As expected, ISO 200 and 400 are very clean.
ISO 800 adds a little bit of noise, while 1600 adds progressively more. Still, results are impressive, since no detail is lost and the noise is very acceptable.
18) High ISO Performance (ISO 3200-6400)
High ISO performance is a very important measure of sensor quality for low-light photography. Here is how the Fuji X-T1 performs at ISO 3200 and 6400:
At ISO 3200, we start seeing minor loss of details, especially in the darker areas. Noise is pretty much doubled from ISO 1600 at this point, but still perfectly usable. ISO 6400 is the RAW limit. With more detail and color loss and much more noise, it is something I would not want to stretch beyond for my photography needs. Fuji does offer higher ISO levels beyond 6400, but they are not “native” and they are only available in JPEG, so I am excluding those here.
Now let’s take a look at how the Fuji X-T1 compares to its direct competitor, the Olympus OM-D E-M1, Nikon D5200 and Nikon D600.
19) Fuji X-T1 vs Olympus OM-D E-M1 Low ISO Comparison (ISO 200-800)
Here is the comparison of the Fuji X-T1 to its director competitor, the Olympus OM-D E-M1. Although the X-T1 has similar resolution of 16.3 MP, it is physically larger in size (APS-C) and hence has larger pixels than the OM-D E-M1. Here is ISO 200 (Left: Fuji X-T1, Right: Olympus OM-D E-M1):
As expected, both sensors perform very well at ISO 200. There is a bit of fine grain visible on the OM-D E-M1 and it appears sharper, but that’s most likely coming from differences in RAW processing in Lightroom, which applies slightly different sharpening algorithms to both cameras.
The same is true for ISO 400.
As we push to ISO 800, we start to see differences in ISO performance.
20) Fuji X-T1 vs Olympus OM-D E-M1 High ISO Comparison (ISO 1600-6400)
As ISO is pushed to higher levels, the performance differences become more apparent. Noise patterns on the OM-D E-M1 definitely increase in comparison.
We see a similar situation at ISO 3200. At this point, the difference is around 2/3 to a full stop of advantage on behalf of the Fuji X-T1.
Both lose details at ISO 6400, but it is pretty clear that the Fuji X-T1 retains colors better, particularly in the shadow areas. Noise patterns on the X-T1 are noticeably better throughout the frame. Again, I am seeing between 2/3 of a stop to a full stop of difference in performance here. If you take the ISO 6400 sample from the X-T1 and compare it to ISO 3200 on the OM-D E-M1, they look similar.
21) Fuji X-T1 vs Olympus OM-D E-M1 Summary
As expected, a physically larger sensor does produce better results, particularly at high ISO levels above ISO 1600. Unfortunately, since Fuji does not have the ability to produce RAW files at “boosted” levels (ISO 100, 12800 and 25600), I could not provide comparisons for those (I only compare RAW output). As noted above, there are visible sharpness differences between the two cameras and it has nothing to do with the optical quality of lenses, but more with the way Adobe Camera RAW and Lightroom render RAW images. It seems like Adobe applies more aggressive sharpening on the OM-D E-M1 RAW files by default, which makes its crops appear sharper. Either way, you can see that the larger APS-C sensor on the X-T1 provides cleaner output when compared to the Olympus OM-D E-M1. When comparing images side by side, I see roughly 2/3 of a stop to a full stop of advantage on behalf of Fuji X-T1 at ISO 1600 and above. If you are a JPEG shooter, you might see even more differences, since Fuji does an excellent job with noise reduction when rendering JPEG files.
22) Fuji X-T1 vs Nikon D5300 Low ISO Comparison (ISO 200-800)
Let’s take a look at how the Fuji X-T1 compares to the same size sensor DSLR from Nikon, the new D5300. Here is the performance comparison at ISO 100 (Left: Fuji X-T1, Right: Nikon D5300):
At ISO 200, I do not see any noticeable difference between the two.
As we push towards ISO 400, both retain excellent image quality throughout the image, with no visible grain.
Grain patterns are a bit different between the two at ISO 800.
23) Fuji X-T1 vs Nikon D5300 High ISO Comparison (ISO 1600-6400)
Things start getting worse at ISO 1600 for both, as shown below:
Once again, noise patterns appear a little different on both cameras, with the D5300 showing finer grain, while the X-T1 image appears as if it went through a single pass of noise reduction. Image quality remains very high on both cameras.
At ISO 3200, the Fuji X-T1 seems to retain colors in the shadow areas better. Take a look at the red tones under the ship, where the D5300 image shows artificial red introduced to the bordering black area. Images also appear a little bit cleaner on the X-T1.
And at ISO 6400, we see a lot of noise and artifacts on both cameras, although the X-T1 still appears cleaner overall, preserving colors and dynamic range better in comparison.
24) Fuji X-T1 vs Nikon D5300 Summary
While the differences in low ISO performance are minute and not worth talking about, judging by the noise patterns in images, we can see that either the Fuji X-T1 cooks its RAW files a bit more, or Adobe applies more noise reduction to Fuji RAW files. Noise patterns appear different on both, which is particularly visible at ISO 1600 and above. Although the X-T1 appears a little cleaner and seems to preserve shadow colors better, particularly at high ISOs, I cannot say that I prefer one over the other.
25) Fuji X-T1 vs Nikon D600 Low ISO Comparison (ISO 200-800)
And full frame camera owners might be wondering how the X-T1 compares to a budget full-frame DSLR like the Nikon D600:
As expected, the difference in performance is evident even at ISO 200. The D600 image is very clean and detailed, thanks to the down-sampling process.
The same is true for ISO 400.
At ISO 800, we see a little bit of noise on the X-T1 in the shadow areas, while the D600 still remains noise free.
26) Fuji X-T1 vs Nikon D600 High ISO Comparison (ISO 1600-6400)
As expected, pushing ISO to 1600 starts to reveal bigger differences in performance between the two:
And at ISO 3200, the D600 takes a big lead with at least a full stop of difference:
At ISO 6400, the D600 suffers very little from color / dynamic range loss in the shadows, keeping noise levels under control. The same cannot be said about the X-T1. I see between 1 and 1.5 stops of difference here, which is expected, given the difference in sensor size:
26) Fuji X-T1 vs Nikon D600 Summary
When comparing APS-C sensors to full-frame, you have to keep in mind that the latter obviously offers better image quality due to larger physical size. The D600 not only has bigger pixels (5.9µ vs 4.82µ), but with a 24 MP full-frame sensor, it also has resolution advantage over the X-T1. This means that if you were to print same size images using both cameras, the D600 would have finer grain and cleaner images, thanks to the resizing / down-sampling process. This can be seen from the above comparisons, where the D600 clearly shows at least a full stop of advantage, especially at high ISO levels.
27) Fuji X-T1 vs Nikon Df Low ISO Comparison (ISO 200-800)
Let’s take a look at how the Fuji X-T1 compares to Nikon’s low-light king, the Nikon Df (a similar sensor is also used on the Nikon D4 camera). Since both cameras have 16 MP of resolution, I did not down-sample the below output, so you are comparing pixel-level performance between the two:
At ISO 200, both cameras perform extremely well.
The same goes for ISO 400.
At ISO 800, the Nikon Df looks just a bit cleaner in some areas.
28) Fuji X-T1 vs Nikon Df High ISO Comparison (ISO 1600-6400)
Pushed to ISO 1600, we now start seeing more differences between the two, with the Df producing better colors, details and less noise.
At ISO 3200, the X-T1 adds a lot of noise and there is a visible loss of details and colors, especially in the shadow area. The Nikon Df looks much better in comparison.
Finally, ISO 6400 is X-T1’s RAW limit and this is where the biggest difference between the two cameras can be observed. The Fuji X-T1 loses quite a bit of dynamic range at ISO 6400 – colors on the lower part of the ship disappear and there is lots of noise throughout the image, with visible patches of artifacts. There is about 1.5 stops of difference between the two cameras. Take a look at how ISO 6400 on the Fuji X-T1 compares to ISO 12800 on the Nikon Df:
As you can see, even a stop higher, the Df still looks better. Not only does it retain colors better, but it also has smaller/finer grain. The Df definitely looks worse at ISO 25600 though, so the difference is roughly between 1.5 and 1.7 stops.
29) Fuji X-T1 vs Nikon Df Summary
The above comparison is a good test that shows how two similar resolution, but different size sensors compare at pixel level. As you can see, the Fuji X-T1 with its APS-C sensor performs very well at low ISOs, but starts to suffer at ISO 800 and above. The Nikon Df has superb pixel-level performance and its strength is seen at higher ISOs – at ISO 6400, the Nikon Df is over a stop better. Sadly, the X-T1 cannot go beyond ISO 6400 with RAW files, so we cannot provide further comparisons at even higher ISO levels.
The X-T1 is yet another winner camera from Fuji. Armed with the same sensor technology as previous generation X-series cameras, it adds quite a bit more to the table, with its fully weather-sealed construction, fast continuous autofocus (which actually works for capturing moving subjects), a large and beautiful electronic viewfinder, a long list of customization and ergonomic improvements, as well as brand new features never before seen on other Fuji X cameras. Thanks to the amazing lens line-up featuring such superb performers as the XF 23mm f/1.4, XF 35mm f/1.4 and XF 56mm f/1.2, the Fuji X system has matured into one of the most attractive mirrorless systems on the market today, with the X-T1 leading the camera line-up in performance, image quality and features. It is pretty clear that Fuji has been listening to its customers and taking care of all the bugs and problems one by one. In just two years, Fuji transformed its product line from quirky to fantastic, with a total of five different camera lines, from entry level to professional.
Speaking of which, there is a reason to be concerned about such segregation of cameras. It puzzles me why Fuji is doing the same thing the big brands did, by creating so many different and confusing cameras lines. Just take a look at the current Fuji X cameras and you will see what I mean:
- Entry Level: Fuji X-A1
- Upper Entry Level: Fuji X-M1
- Enthusiast: Fuji X-E1 / X-E2
- Professional: Fuji X-T1
- Top-of-the-line: Fuji X-Pro1
For a person wanting to buy into a Fuji X system, this is way too big of a selection in my opinion. The Fuji X-A1 and X-M1 could have been easily combined into one entry level line. The X-E1 / X-E2 should stay as mid-level / enthusiast line, while the X-T1 should have been the X-Pro2. With just three camera lines, it would have been easy to explain the differences between them and not waste all the R&D and marketing efforts to come up with new cameras every six months. Fuji has been doing a great job with enhancing existing cameras with new firmware, but the new trend of making more cameras reminds me of the big two, which have been steadily losing market share during the past few years. If Fuji gets too greedy, we might not see anymore firmware updates that actually fix things and implement new functionality, forcing people to buy new cameras. I hope that day will never come…
Is the X-T1 perfect? No, of course it is not – no camera is. I really wish Fuji fixed the RAW recording capabilities to boosted ISO values like 100, increased shutter speed limit to 1/8000, upped sync speed to 1/250, improved video recording and timelapse features and addressed some basic ergonomic concerns such as focus point selection. At the same time, I realize that such features are probably reserved for the upcoming X-Pro2, which I am really curious to see. The X-T1 pushed the envelope pretty high already, so I wonder what other innovations Fuji will bring to the table with the X-Pro2.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed shooting with the X-T1, which I will be replacing my Fuji X-E1 with later this year. At $1,299 it is obviously a pretty big jump from the $999 X-E2, but it is definitely worth it for me. As I have already pointed out, the EVF alone makes this jump worthwhile, without taking into account weather sealing and other new and useful features. In addition, I often find myself shooting in adverse weather conditions when travelling, so the weather sealing on the X-T1 is a huge plus, allowing me to concentrate on photography rather than worry about damaging gear.
31) Where to buy and availability
32) More image samples
All Images Copyright © Nasim Mansurov and Charles Hildreth, All Rights Reserved. Copying or reproduction is not permitted without written permission from the author.
- Build Quality
- Focus Speed and Accuracy
- Image Quality
- High ISO Performance
- Size and Weight
- Metering and Exposure
- Movie Recording Features
- Dynamic Range
Photography Life Overall Rating